- God of War – The Official Novelization.
- J. M. Barlog.
- 352 pages.
- Fiction / Novelization / Tie-in / Video Game.
- My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.
His vengeance against the Gods of Olympus years behind him, Kratos now lives as a man in the realm of Norse gods and monsters. It is in this harsh, unforgiving world that he must fight to survive… and teach his son to do the same. This startling reimagining of God of War deconstructs the core elements that defined the series satisfying combat; breathtaking scale; and a powerful narrative and fuses them anew.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I’ll preface my review with this statement, I’m a massive God of War fan. From its initial release on the PlayStation 2 all the way back in 2005 through to the recent 2018 PlayStation 4 instalment that this book is the novelization of. I mean, the book even has the exact same cover as the video game!📖🎮
Set in ancient Greece and full of the gods and monsters of Greek mythology God of War was a fantastic series and called to me. The setting, the creatures, the epic boss fights, Kratos, the main character, angry with a fiery rage, hell-bent on vengeance against the God’s, the sweet weaponry that he wielded, I mean, c’mon the Blades of Chaos are amazing! and, I’m not gonna lie, the gratuitous violence and copious bloodshed appealed to.
Then, with the latest release, the setting changed. Kratos had quenched his thirst for vengeance and ancient Greece was no more. Instead, the series moved on, forward in time to a new Norse setting and something strange happened to Kratos. He was always a great character but he was also rather one-dimensional and then with this instalment of God of War he changed.
With the passage of time Kratos had aged, he had traded in the Blades of Chaos for a single axe, the Leviathan axe, his anger whilst still there was now more measured, he was more reflective, thoughtful and as a character, he was far more complex than ever before.
The God of War series is one of favourite gaming series and, for this latest release, along with the likes of Bioshock (1, 2 & Infinite), Dead Space (1 & 2), Fallout 3, the GTA series, Horizon Zero Dawn, Red Dead Redemption, going old school now, Shadow of the Colossus and even further back Goldeneye and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time it is one of the best games that I have ever played, it’s not just a video game, it’s an experience. The setting, the mythology, the monsters, the locations, the dialogue, the weapons, the RPG (Role-playing-Game) elements and expanded gameplay, Kratos and then, this time, the cutscenes, the storytelling and the emotions that the game evokes in the player too. Yes, the visceral violence that is synonymous with the franchise is still there but then there is added depth too. God of War has such a heartfelt, personal and poignant story with Kratos and his son, Atreus leaving their isolated forest home to fulfil Kratos’s promise to his deceased wife, to honour her last wish and scatter her ashes from the top of the highest mountain peak in all of the nine realms. The simple story that turns into an epic journey spanning various realms and the fraught relationship between the father and son who have never really bonded is a testament to the power of storytelling in the video game medium with some amazing voice acting by Christopher Judge (Teal’c from Stargate SG1) as Kratos.
Saying all that, after being offered a copy of the God of War book to read and review (which, I have to admit that I had no idea was even a thing until I received the press release email) half of me was chomping at the bit to accept and thinking ‘how cool is this‘ but the other half was rather more apprehensive about accepting it. You see, with no disrespect to either the book or Barlog the game had set such a high standard (I’d go as far as to call it a masterpiece) that I had to ask myself what could the book possibly add to the game and would it be a worthy addition or an unnecessary extra that simply left me yearning to pick up the controller and replay the game.
Well, after finishing the book I have to admit that Barlog has done a damn fine job with the God of War novelization and he brings the game to life in the form of a tremendous book. I loved it and in my opinion, if you are a fan of the game then you’ll be a fan of the book.
Obviously, the book tells the same story as in the game. Kratos and Atreus journey forth from their home to scatter Faye’s (the wife of Kratos and the mother of Atreus) ashes from the highest mountaintop in all the realms.
There’s a lot packed into the game of God of War. Along with the main story, there is a whole plethora of other content available with plenty of lore and a variety of side quests to discover throughout the world. As such, the book is far more linear in its approach focusing solely on the main story and missing out the lore and side quests. This, however, is totally understandable and Barlog can’t be faulted for his focus on the main story. Had he written about everything else that is included in the actual game then the book would have been double the size in length and probably well over 800 pages. Instead, what we get is a streamlined narrative featuring the major points of the main story that manages to keep the core of the game intact and works well.
It is a long and arduous trek to the highest mountain peak spanning various realms with plenty of obstacles along the way and many battles against a variety of foes (including Trolls, Hel-walkers, Draugr, Ogres, Elves, Wulver, a Dragon, demi-gods and a god) to overcome.
Kratos and Atreus are both consumed by grief by the loss of Faye. They are in turmoil and the loss is a wound that is raw and still bleeds. Atreus wears his heart on his sleeve and often shows his emotions. Whereas, with Kratos, apart from the anger shown he is very stoic, grieving in his own way and mourning silently but the grief, for the pair is palpable on the pages. Kratos doesn’t know how to be a father to Atreus struggling with the role and at its core, that’s what God of War is about. The building and the development of the relationship between the two, the growth of Kratos as he learns to be a father, Atreus maturing from the child who started the journey and showing that he is strong enough to complete the task, trusting each other, working together and finally both Kratos and Atreus coming to terms with their true nature.
In general, the action in God of War is decent enough but there’s a couple of occasions where more description and detail would have been welcomed in the encounters and fights. It’s a tough one though as the action in the game is very visceral. Subsequently, if Barlog had taken that gaming action and written it in the same visceral way then the God of War book would have been very dark and it wouldn’t have been as accessible as it ultimately is.
The settings in the book are recognisable as the locations in the game. Likewise, the characters in the book are the not only reminiscent of the characters from in the game, they ‘are‘ the characters from in the game. Kratos, Atreus, the head of Mimir, Brok and Sindri (the bickering dwarven brothers), Freya and Baldur and their actions, the dialogue between them and their personalities are all on point and Barlog has done a great job of transferring them to the book.
The book offers fans of the game something extra in the form of a worthy companion piece that sits beside the game as a welcome addition to the God of War franchise evoking the spirit of the game. For those who don’t play video games (I know, the horror but alas, some people don’t) and have no prior knowledge of Kratos and the God of War gaming series then you will also still find a good adventure and story inside the pages of the book.
Purchase God of War – The Official Novelization.
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